Workwear manufacturer makes pitch to Dragons
Blair Beattie pitched his Coolworks ventilated workwear to the five 'Dragons' on the CBC venture capital show, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Morgan Ian Adams/Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin
COLLINGWOOD — Blair Beattie didn’t get sign a deal, but he may have gotten something even more important: a national stage.
Beattie made an appearance on CBC’s Dragons’ Den last Wednesday, pitching his Coolworks line of ventilated workwear to ‘Dragons’ Kevin O’Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Jim Treliving, David Chilton, and Bruce Croxon.
Beattie, who moved to Collingwood 10 years ago, went in asking for $500,000 for a 25% stake in his business. After what appeared to be a successful pitch, the Dragons — after a huddle — turned around and offered Beattie $500,000 for 33%, with all five involved; the Dragons were also looking for a 5% royalty.
Beattie opened his pitch leading four men wearing Coolworks products under a heavy canvas tarp; he acknowledged it was a bit corny, and wouldn’t be something he would have otherwise done in a business presentation.
“It was a bit of a risk-reward decision at the beginning,” he said. “There’s an upside for the business if it goes well, and a downside; both make for good television.”
The episode was filmed last April; after nearly a year, which included each side undertaking their own due diligence, Beattie walked away from the deal.
“The deal (on the show) is non-binding; it’s more of a framework for what could be the foundation of a deal,” said Beattie. “When I realized what I could be giving away… we did not reach a deal, and I’m still looking (for a partner).
“The key, though, was leveraging that five minutes in the sun to fill that void… it’s a very effective show,” he said. “(Dragons’ Den) is a great option for that person which an idea sketched out on a napkin.
“For a business like mine, on the bright side there is some value in that we might end up finding someone who would be a better fit.”
It’s been an eight-year journey for Beattie, who went in with a friend on an idea to create clothing with removable panels in the legs revealing a layer of meshing that provides ventilation to the wearer in hot workplace situations.
It started out when his friend — an employee of a steel manufacturing facility in Hamilton — had a ‘eureka’ moment; he headed to a department store to purchase a pair of shorts, and a quantity of fabric meshing, and had his mother sew the two materials together.
While his co-workers initially teased him, they soon saw the benefits — and started asking for pairs of their own.
A search online for a similar product also turned up empty, and so a business concept was born. That was nearly eight years ago; in the interim, Coolworks has been patented on both sides of the border, and business partnerships have come and gone. Beattie is now the sole owner.
Just getting the patent, said Beattie, was a “long and expensive process,” especially south of the border where it took two years of discussions with the U.S. patent office.
“But it was necessary, to get the product off the ground,” said Beattie.
His sales have been mostly in Ontario, and Beattie’s hope was to make the connections through Dragon’s Den to break into other markets, notably the U.S., and get the funding to build up the inventory the company would need if it was looking to sell into the States.
“We’ve had decent sales, but nothing approaching the profit level I’d like to see,” he said, adding the current demand is “outstripping our capacity to supply.”
The product is manufactured in China, as Beattie tries to keep his price point as low as possible.
The market for workwear “is very price-sensitive, and every dollar on the manufacturing end adds $4 to the selling price,” he said.